This Dixhead guy ran out and bought Rockstar's Red Dead Redemption, and horked up a down and dirty review for your amusement. Give it a gander.
Grand Theft Horse.
There we go. Shortest review ever. It's pretty accurate, too.
You take control of John Marston, an outlaw that has turned a new leaf after someone kidnapped his wife and sons and blah, blah, blah. He's not the main character. Not really, actually. Just as in Grand Theft Auto 4, the main character wasn't Nico Bellic, it was New York City. Here, the main character is the American West.
I was in sitechat when I fired up this game and I saw and stared at one of the first visuals you see: a single-wheel paddleboat at a port. "Holy fuck. That's some pretty goddamned water." Enjoy it, because another holdover from previous Grand Theft Auto games is that the character you control has extreme hydrophobia. He gets into water, he croaks.
Other holdovers from the previous installments that made it here are some mildly clunky interface menus and the controls themselves. Ye gods, the controls. You see, Mr. Marston is incapable of a 90-degree turn. That isn't too big of a deal until you need to get into a doorway that's a foot and a half off the ground and the only way up and into it is a three-step staircase. You'll end up running around and making odd, rounded turns to get into these doorways. You managed to make it work in previous Grand Theft Auto games, and you'll manage this time around, most prominently because the game isn't called "Grand Theft I-Can't-Get-Up-In-That-Fucking-Door".
When you walk forward and let go of the control stick, Mr. Marston slides a little bit. That's mildly annoying when you want to pick up things. Speaking of picking up things, after the first grisly coyote scalping or the first dead body looting, you'll wish they stopped playing that same cutscene over and over again.
Also, if you didn't like how Rockstar handled combat, you still won't. You can't hit a button ad hotswap weapons. You can carry two kinds of pistols/shotguns/rifles now, which is nice, but you have to hit start and change them back and forth in your inventory screen before you can switch between weapon types. To explain it a little better, you have to hit start, go to "Weapons", pick the weapons you want, go back into the game, then to swap, hold right bumper and pick the weapon with the right thumbstick.
Yes, these are the same gripes we've all pretty much had about every Grand Theft game since they had them. I'm not so sure that Rockstar can't get its act quite together or can't quite achieve the polish, or that it's of secondary concern to them. Also, despite all of my little gripes and concerns, they pale in comparison to what this game does right, and that's virtually everything else. The gameplay is rock-solid otherwise. The environment in which you roam is not only impressive in its scope, but it's diverse and varied. Going down any particular stretch of road, you may come across a) nothing, b) some native animals roaming around, or c) a random event like someone asking for a ride, then trying to horse-jack you or a carriage over on the side with a woman asking for help. When you slow down, two dudes come out of the carriage and fill you full of holes. Yes, it's got the wide expanses that San Andreas had, but with the day/night mechanic and random events, you'll see a lot of things out there with repeated trips.
In the single player mode, the bounty system has a couple of interesting wrinkles. Your bounty never goes away after you outrun the law. It just accrues if you commit another crime, accidental or otherwise You have to find a telegraph office and wire the money to get the bounty off your head, do jail time, or get a pardon. Jail time seems painless, but the townspeople treat you differently after they know what you did. Getting a pardon means finding a gang hideout and cleaning them out and getting a pardon letter as loot. It makes more sense than just having increasing hordes of police chasing you, then forgetting about you and all crimes you've committed over the time you've played. Your sins are never completely forgiven if you outrun the law.
This game is a masterpiece in much the same way that Grand Theft Auto 4 was. However, these games have little to no replay value. That takes me to multiplayer, where Rockstar has been trying to improve. The multiplayer offerings are much more diverse now. There are multiple game types, like a free-for-all deathmatch, a capture-the-bag match, and a few others that all start off with a shootout, which could be the most fun part of multiplayer other than, well, you know, killing everything that moves, holing up in the saloon and trying to fend off The Law for as long as you possibly can. It's actually rather fun, especially if you do it with multiple people. If you have a bounty on your head and are standing next to someone that has a higher bounty on their head, the bounty hunters are going after the other person, leaving you free to roam around and blast sheriffs in the dome until your bounty is now the higher one and you attract all the attention. Apparently, there are some multiplayer gametypes to be downloaded as free DLC, but I haven't got too far into that yet. Rockstar has tried to put forward a better multiplayer experience, though, with a leveling system, a myriad of guns, many animals to ride, avatars to select and trouble to cause, but I don't quite think they've found the way to extend the life of this game past a singular playthrough, which is the same as all of their previous offerings. I think they're slowly learning, though, and by Grand Theft Hovercar, we may have a good multiplayer system in effect.
Now, I remember reviews of GTAIV saying it was the best game ever and how it was sublime in every way, shape, and form, which I feel is relatively accurate. Soon after that, Saints Row 2 was released and a lot of people said it was clearly the superior game to Grand Theft Auto 4. I haven't played Saints Row 2, but I think there were a few things at play here. One is that Saints Row brought more fun to the equation where GTA was more serious work. I've heard people mention the cell phone in GTAIV in the same breath they mention Otis and his walkie talkie in Dead Rising and Navi, the fairy that vexes Link for "most annoying thing ever in a video game", but I never found it to be that bad. You could always, like you can in real life, just ignore the phone call. GTAIV also had the city in which to play, amazing voice acting, great music, and the trademark wit and satiric humor that we've come to expect from a Rockstar game. For what it's worth, there are no cell phones to answer in the Wild West, so you're clear of your constant headaches, phone-haters.
If I were to put forth proper score for this game, I'd say that the one disappointing thing about this game is the control scheme, but everything else clearly outshines it, it almost seems nitpicky to dwell on it. The music is outstanding, as is the setting, for it's almost like you're in the Italian...er...Western American countryside in a Sergio Leone film. This game is a very strong 8. I can't, in good confidence, give a 10 to a product that tries to have a multiplayer offering and fails. There's clearly room for improvement.